San Diego

United States



Museum Of Photographic Arts

Since its founding in 1983, the Museum of Photographic Arts (MoPA) has been devoted to collecting, conserving and exhibiting the entire spectrum of the photographic medium. The museum’s endeavors consistently address cultural, historical and social issues through its exhibitions and public programs (all of which are described in detail throughout this site). MoPA is accredited by the American Association of Museums and is a member-supported, private, nonprofit institution. Additional support for museum programs is provided by the City of San Diego under a program managed by its Commission for Arts and Culture, the Community Enhancement Program of the County of San Diego, as well as the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Permanent Collection

The collection of the Museum of Photographic Arts encompasses the full spectrum of the photographic medium, as well as materials and documents related to the history and process of these art forms. Since its beginnings in 1983, MoPA has maintained an archive of such materials as an important adjunct to its exhibition and education programs and a singular asset for the community. This reflects its curatorial tenet that "although art objects are carefully preserved within the museum space, the collection as a whole is held by the public, representing who we are and what we value as a culture."

The collection attempts to trace the entire history of photography: its aesthetic movements and technological advancements. Processes from Daguerreotypes, salt prints, Woodbury types, albumen prints, ambrotypes and tintypes, through such contemporary processes as 20 X 24" Polaroid photographs and laser holograms are collected for their aesthetics and their importance to the historical periods of their derivation. The collection is strong in its Daguerrian holdings as well as mid-twentieth century Soviet Russian photography. And while the entire collection illustrates the complex and varied history of the medium, its major areas of strength are in modern and contemporary work, specifically in social documentary photography and photojournalism.

Contemporary color and black-and-white photographs—many by artists the museum has exhibited—are actively collected from all over the world to keep pace with this very vigorous period of production. A small selection of videotapes and films are also held in the collection.

The museum's collection reflects the central role photography ...+ [ Read all ]

Forthcoming exhibitions

Picturing Eden

September 15, 2007 – January 13, 2008

Organized by the George Eastman House, Picturing Eden examines the many facets of paradise, from a place of contemplation and restoration to a site of loneliness and despair. The exhibition is presented in four sections: Paradise Lost, Paradise Reconstructed, Despairing of Paradise, and Paradise Anew. The photographs explore the development and changing styles of the garden and concepts of paradise. The exhibition includes work by more than 30 artists, including Michael Kenna, Sally Mann, Han Nguyen, and Doug and Mike Starn.

Public Privacy: Wendy Richmond's Surreptitious Cellphone

September 8, 2007 – January 6, 2008

Artist Wendy Richmond explores how 20th century Americans occupy personal spaces while going about their daily lives in the public eye. Like the thousands of surveillance cameras that hide in public, Richmond records people engaged in simple, personal actions, such as sipping coffee or riding the subway. Shooting tiny movies on her cellphone video camera, Richmond allows the viewer to observe people in mundane routines that they never expected would be filmed.


Gallery Admissions:
$6 adults
$4 students, seniors and military
FREE to members and children under 12. Become a member.
FREE to public on the second Tuesday of the month
FREE to school groups with advanced reservation

Opening hours

Open: Tuesday through Sunday 10:00am – 5:00pm, Thursdays until 9:00pm
*Closed Mondays
(*Hours vary during Special Events)

Getting there

1649 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101
MoPA is located in the Casa De Balboa building, east of the main traffic circle and central fountain.

Directions: Map
From Interstate 5 and 8 intersection:
> Go southbound on I-5, take the 10th Ave. exit
> Turn left on A St. and
> Turn left again on Park Blvd.
> Take a left onto Space Theater Way and cross the small bridge.
> Park in any of the parking lots along Space Theater Way or on Park Blvd.

At the end of Space Theater Way, you will be directly behind the Museum of Photographic Arts' building. Come around to the front of the building to enter.

MoPA's building is between the Prado Restaurant and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and in the same building as the Model Railroad Museum and the San Diego Historical Society.

Museum internal and external photos (1)

Click on the images to enlarge


MoPA offers a variety of specialized events and programs throughout the school year for educators. These include workshops, open houses, educational exhibitions, and more.

Venue hire

Let the Museum of Photographic Arts in historic Balboa Park host your upcoming wedding, social or corporate event. Located on the Prado in the Casa de Balboa, MoPA was recently renovated and boasts state-of-the-art facilities including a 226-seat theater, reception area and gallery space. Our David C. Copley Atrium offers a unique setting for receptions and seated dinners, plus the opportunity for your guests to view MoPA's impressive exhibition galleries. Located within the museum, the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Theater presents an intimate meeting forum which can accommodate a variety of multi-media presentations.

MoPA is available for private functions seven days a week. Our preferred caterers will customize a menu to meet your group's special requests and provide an unforgettable dining experience.